Lucille Smith

President Emeritus
Voices of Detroit Initiative (VODI)
Purpose Prize Fellow 2010

Smith builds collaborations among diverse public health care providers, reducing costs for Detroit’s public health system and improving the care of the city’s uninsured.

Lucille Smith recalled how a patient once told her that she knew she was having a stroke yet the ailing woman told concerned onlookers, “Don’t call an ambulance! I can’t afford it!”

A longtime hospital administrator in Detroit, Smith had heard too may variations of that story. So in 1999, Smith jumped at the chance to become executive director of the Voices of Detroit Initiative, a newly created organization charged with building collaborations among the region’s diverse public health care providers. In order to efficiently pool resources, minimize costs, leverage collective expertise and encourage the broadest dissemination of strategies, Smith relied on her deft people skills to unite once competing organizations and agencies.

Since Smith’s arrival, more than 75,000 poor and uninsured people, predominantly people of color, have been enrolled in the Voices of Detroit Initiative system, which borrows innovations from private health systems. Now, each uninsured patient is assigned to one local provider that provides primary, preventative and care management services and referrals. Providers share a comprehensive data collection and tracking system.

Looking ahead, Smith says, “I expect to become a pioneer in helping to develop provider-friendly health care information technology while also promoting healthier lifestyles in communities of color.”